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Lion Head Winter Route Glissade

A group was descending the Lion Head Winter Route, when one of the member of the group lost control of his glissade. He slid an unknown length, impacted trees along the way, and came to rest wedged between two trees just above the first steep pitch on the route ( atop the “rock step”). The party was able to reach 911 via cell phone, and also local caretakers from the AMC heard their voices while skiing and went over to assist. Due to the unfortunate location of where he came to rest, stabilization and extrication was difficult and took longer than usual for accidents in this area. The patient was eventually packaged on a backboard in a rescue litter, which was lowered by rope through the steep sections of trail. He was loaded into the USFS snowcat and transferred to an ambulance at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Overall the rescue involved 2 Snow Rangers, 2 caretakers, one bystander, and a handful of people from the group. The total time from injury to when he was transferred to the ambulance was approximately 4-5 hours.

Although this patient’s injuries were caused by impact with trees, we would like to remind everyone that glissading while wearing crampons is a dangerous activity. Every year people are injured doing this. You are better off staying on your feet if you are wearing crampons. If you do want to glissade, we recommend removing your crampons first. The Lion Head Winter Route is a steep route that requires the ability to self arrest to navigate safely. We recommend hikers should not only have an ice axe and crampons, but be experienced in how to use them effectively.

Snow Shoeing in Tuckerman Ravine

A group of people were snow shoeing in Tuckerman Ravine in the bottom of Right Gully when one of them slipped on an icy surface and began a head first sliding fall toward boulders.  His friend, who was below him, got in his fall line and stopped his fall.  This successfully kept his friend from injuring himself, but the person who stopped the fall suffered a broken lower leg in the process.  The caretaker from the Harvard Cabin and three local guides were in the area.  They provided first aid and began transporting the patient with some assistance from bystanders.  Snow Rangers responded to help and the patient was lowered down the Little Headwall and transported to Pinkham Notch via snowmobile where he was transferred to an ambulance.

Four Injuries

USFS Snow Rangers and the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol assisted with four injured visitors. Each patient was able to evacuate themselves without further assistance beyond Hermit Lake. The first patient was a participant in the Inferno pentathlon who fell during the ski leg and dislocated his shoulder. The dislocation was reduced and the shoulder immobilized. The second patient fell while climbing Left Gully, sustaining abrasions to both forearms as a result of his efforts attempting to self-arrest without an ice axe. The third patient fell while climbing above Lunch Rocks. He also dislocated his shoulder; this dislocation was reduced and immobilized for his walk to Pinkham.

The fourth incident of the day is worthy of further analysis. This skier began to descend the Lip in the late afternoon when he realized the surface was much more firm and steep than he had anticipated. At some point before descending, he dropped his ski poles down the Lip, stepped out of his skis, and began to climb back upward to the ridge. He traversed over to the top of the Sluice, where conditions were not much better than in the Lip. Upon descending, he lost control and began a tumbling fall that ended just short of Lunch Rocks. He was able to walk himself down the Snow Ranger Quarters at Hermit Lake where he was examined by Snow Rangers and the MWVSP. It was determined he may have suffered a minor concussion but was otherwise all right. At the request of the caregivers, he returned later in the evening for a follow-up evaluation before spending the night at his shelter. This incident involves a few common hazards we see each spring. First, when the sun begins to set behind the ridge, the snow surface can quickly turn very icy and slick. Second is descending an unknown route without first climbing it to determine its nature. The Sluice is every bit as steep as the Lip, but also has cliffs and a runout into Lunch Rocks making falls especially precarious. Skiing at the top of your ability in unfamiliar terrain without poles and with a large pack can be very challenging; sometimes walking down can be a good option. Kudos to the patient’s friends for encouraging him to get checked out by trained personnel.

Sliding fall injuries

At approximately 1:00pm a mountaineer was taking a photograph in the vicinity of the Lip when he lost balance and fell about 300 feet to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine. He sustained a lower leg injury as a result of the fall. The patient was splinted and packaged into a litter which was brought down to Pinkham on the USFS snowcat. While this was taking place, a snowboarder injured his left leg in a sliding fall in Tuckerman Ravine. He was evaluated by the MWVSP and was able to walk to Pinkham under his own power.

Sliding Falls

Two incidents took place which required responses from USFS Snow Rangers, the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol (MWVSP), the AMC, and the HMC. In both cases, the victims slid out of control for a long distance on a very hard icy surface that dominated the mountain resulting in multiple injuries to each.

The first incident to be reported to the Snow Rangers involved a woman falling approximately 1200 feet from near the top of Left Gully. She was unable to self arrest and quickly lost her ice axe as she rapidly accelerated on the very slick surface. Along the way her crampon caught the surface, resulting in an open angulated lower leg fracture. She also suffered arm and rib injuries before coming to a stop low in the floor of Tuckerman Ravine. Snow Rangers, MWVSP, and AMC personnel responded, treated her injuries, and packaged her into a litter. The litter was belayed down the Little Headwall to the top of the Sherburne Ski Trail. From there a snowmobile transported the litter to an ambulance waiting at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.

Approximately 15 minutes after being notified of the first incident, Snow Rangers learned of a second incident unfolding in Huntington Ravine. A mountaineer had fallen from somewhere between the top of the Fan and the ice bulge in Central Gully. He slid approximately 1000 feet through icy talus before coming to rest near the base of Huntington Ravine. The victim suffered numerous significant injuries including a mid-shaft femur fracture. Bystanders began to provide care while assistance was sought out. By the time the Snow Rangers arrived, the victim was conscious and in severe pain. He was splinted and packaged into a litter; which was belayed one rope length to flat ground at the base of the Ravine due to the icy surface. The USFS snowcat transported the victim to a waiting ambulance at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.

These two incidents have one strong central theme—that sliding falls on icy surfaces are very difficult to stop. In these cases, the crust was formed three days prior to the incidents with a warm, wet day followed by a sharp drop in temperature. Surfaces immediately became incredibly hard and slick and stayed that way through the Saturday. The morning’s Avalanche Advisory stated “The main safety concern today is the potential for long sliding falls due to the hard icy snow conditions… Bring your crampons, ice axe and mountaineering experience with you today so you can get around in steep terrain and successfully self arrest if you slip. If you don’t have this equipment and the ability to use it you should stick to low angled terrain.” One lesson we can all take home from these incidents is the importance of practicing your skills in all conditions and avoiding steep terrain on days when the difficulty of the conditions exceeds your ability to self arrest. Many thanks go out to the numerous bystanders and volunteers who helped out on these incidents.

Sliding Fall Huntington Ravine

A climber was injured from a sliding fall while descending in Huntington Ravine.  A party of two started up Odell Gully around 3:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.  After completing the main ice climbing section, they traversed to the east to begin their descent.  Neither of them had their headlamps with them and darkness complicated their descent.  According to the party, they were in the lower section of the Escape Hatch when one of them lost his footing and began a sliding fall.  Unable to self arrest, he slid approximately 150 feet before slamming into a tree and stopping.  The fall resulted in injuries to his back and legs.  The two were able to get to the Harvard Cabin under their own power where local guides and the caretaker provided assistance to the climber and notified the USFS Snow Rangers who arrived at the Harvard Cabin around 9:30 pm.  The patient was reassessed, immobilized on a backboard and transported to Pinkham Notch via snowcat where he was transferred to an ambulance and brought to the hospital.  We later learned that the patient fractured two vertebrae in his lower back and had numerous sprains and contusions.

Lessons Learned:  This was the third sliding fall injury in three days that may have been prevented with a quick self arrest.  The surface that all of these occurred on is a very hard icy snowpack from the January thaw, which is difficult to stop on.  If you don’t arrest your fall immediately you will get out of control fast.  In each of these incidents, the parties involved did a good job getting to the Harvard Cabin under their own power.

Sliding Fall – Huntington Ravine

A party of four was ascending the Fan in Huntington Ravine when one of them fell and slid into two other people in his party causing them to fall as well.  One of three involved in the fall was unable to self arrest on the icy surface and tumbled about 50 feet before hitting a rock.  He sustained a soft tissue injury to his left thigh.  The patient’s party was able to assist him down to the Harvard Cabin and notified the caretaker of the incident and requested assistance.  A Snow Ranger assessed his injuries and transported the patient to Pinkham Notch via snowmobile.

Sliding Fall – Tuckerman Ravine Trail Summit Cone

A party of three was descending the Tuckerman Ravine Trail on the summit cone of Mt. Washington when they lost the trail.  Due to poor visibility, they wandered off trail to the east and began descending a steep snowfield.  One of them caught her crampon, causing her to trip and start a sliding fall.  One of the other people in the party chased her down and was able to assist her in stopping the sliding fall.  The person who tripped had no experience self arresting.  During the fall, the person twisted her ankle and her party was able to get her down to the Harvard Cabin in about 5 hours where they spent the night.  The next day USFS Snow Rangers assessed, treated and transported the patient down to Pinkham Notch via snowcat.

Sliding Fall – Tuckerman Ravine

A climber injured his leg after falling down Tuckerman Ravine. He was with two friends and the three of them climbed Central Gully, hiked across the Alpine Garden and began descending into Tuckerman Ravine at dark. He was wearing crampons at the time of the fall but his ice axe was secured to his pack. He said he was not using it because by the time he realized he needed it, the terrain was too steep to take his pack off. During the descent, he lost his footing and fell between 400 and 600 feet to the floor of the Ravine, injuring his leg during the fall. One friend went to Hermit Lake to get help while the other assisted his friend to the rescue cache near the bottom of the Ravine. Snow Rangers, personnel from the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol and the AMC, and overnight guests staying at Hermit Lake responded to help the patient. The patient’s leg was splinted and he was carried down to Hermit Lake which involved one 300′ rope lower. At Hermit Lake, the patient was reassessed and then transported to Pinkham Notch via snowmobile. This incident took 15 people 3.5 hours to complete.

If this person had his ice axe out during the fall he could have arrested himself and prevented this accident. We often see people descending Tuckerman Ravine in icy conditions without the proper equipment, particularly in the spring. An ice axe and the ability to use it properly are critical for safe travel in steep terrain. The combination of the axe and the knowledge of its use provide a reliable means of stopping yourself on steep snow in the event of a fall.

Sliding Fall – Headwall in Tuckerman Ravine

A hiker sustained soft tissue injuries after falling over the Headwall in Tuckerman Ravine. He was with a party of skiers when he decided to leave them and hike to the Summit by himself without any equipment except ski poles and the clothes he was wearing. On the ascent, he climbed the Lip and decided not to descend that way because it was too steep. He opted to try going down to the south of the Lip, which is steeper. After encountering icy conditions, he fell approximately 400′ over the Headwall. The fall was witnessed by a group of bystanders, half of which went to Hermit Lake for help while the other half provided assistance to the victim. A Snow Ranger, the AMC Caretaker and a member of the Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol responded, treated his injuries and assisted him down to Hermit Lake. The person was able to walked out the next day. Five rescuers and a group of bystanders completed this incident in two hours.

Sliding Fall- Lip

The victim was skiing the Lip when she fell. She sustained an injury to her left knee in the sliding fall. She was treated by members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. She was able to hobble out from the Bowl to Hermit Lake where she was then transported to Pinkham on a snow machine by a USFS Snow Ranger. This incident took 4 people 1 1/2 hours to complete.

Sliding Fall, Hillman’s Highway

The victim had made 5 or 6 turns at the top Hillman’s Highway when he lost his edge and fell. He was unable to stop himself and fell the length of the gully, approximately 1200′. He sought assistance from the Forest Service and was treated by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol for numerous abrasions. He was able to walk to Pinkham. This incident took 2 people 1/2 hour.

The previous day we received rain on the snowpack which then froze overnight. Conditions in Hillman’s Highway were very hardpack, icy and unforgiving. Skiers and riders should think twice about venturing onto slopes when conditions are such that without an ice axe you will not be able to stop a fall. One of the victims that fell was wearing snowshoes. Snowshoes are great for deep snow in rolling terrain but they are not intended for steep icy gully climbing. The snowshoe crampon system is designed to float over snow, not ice climb. Having the appropriate equipment for the terrain is essential for being safe in the mountains. Know your equipment, the advantages and limitations before you venture out into the backcountry.

Sliding Fall. Glissading Hillman’s Highway

The victim snowshoed up Hillman’s Highway and attempted to glissade down when he lost control. He took a long, high-speed fall the length of the gully, hitting rocks along the way. He suffered a dislocated shoulder and numerous abrasions to the face and his left side. He was treated by members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. He was able to walk to Pinkham on his own. This incident took 2 people 1 hour.

The previous day we received rain on the snowpack which then froze overnight. Conditions in Hillman’s Highway were very hardpack, icy and unforgiving. Skiers and riders should think twice about venturing onto slopes when conditions are such that without an ice axe you will not be able to stop a fall. One of the victims that fell was wearing snowshoes. Snowshoes are great for deep snow in rolling terrain but they are not intended for steep icy gully climbing. The snowshoe crampon system is designed to float over snow, not ice climb. Having the appropriate equipment for the terrain is essential for being safe in the mountains. Know your equipment, the advantages and limitations before you venture out into the backcountry.

Long Sliding Fall – Hillman’s Highway

The victim was attempting to ski Hillman’s Highway when he lost his edge and took a long sliding fall, approximately 1200′. He suffered lacerations and abrasions to his hands and face. He sought medical attention from the Forest Service and was treated by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. He was able to walk out to Pinkham with his friends. This incident took 2 people 1 hour.

The previous day we received rain on the snowpack which then froze overnight. Conditions in Hillman’s Highway were very hardpack, icy and unforgiving. Skiers and riders should think twice about venturing onto slopes when conditions are such that without an ice axe you will not be able to stop a fall. One of the victims that fell was wearing snowshoes. Snowshoes are great for deep snow in rolling terrain but they are not intended for steep icy gully climbing. The snowshoe crampon system is designed to float over snow, not ice climb. Having the appropriate equipment for the terrain is essential for being safe in the mountains. Know your equipment, the advantages and limitations before you venture out into the backcountry.

Sliding Fall Hillman’s

The victim was snowboarding down Hillman’s Highway when he lost his edge and fell. He tumbled head over heals then was heading face first when he went over a rock drop off. He went approximately 200′ before he was able to stop himself by grabbing onto a clump of bushes. The victim sought assistance from the Forest Service and was treated by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. He had numerous abrasions and a possible concussion. The victim was able to walk out to Pinkham with his friends. This incident took 2 people 1/2 hour.

The previous day we received rain on the snowpack which then froze overnight. Conditions in Hillman’s Highway were very hardpack, icy and unforgiving. Skiers and riders should think twice about venturing onto slopes when conditions are such that without an ice axe you will not be able to stop a fall. One of the victims that fell was wearing snowshoes. Snowshoes are great for deep snow in rolling terrain but they are not intended for steep icy gully climbing. The snowshoe crampon system is designed to float over snow, not ice climb. Having the appropriate equipment for the terrain is essential for being safe in the mountains. Know your equipment, the advantages and limitations before you venture out into the backcountry.